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The Valley

Dump, Blight Top District Issues

Candidates for a new Valley council worry about neighborhoods and landfill expansion.

October 20, 2002|Sharon Bernstein | Times Staff Writer

Stretching from the pristine Santa Susana Mountains to the grimy industrial flats of eastern Northridge, the 1st City Council District for the proposed San Fernando Valley city is the birthplace of the secession movement.

The onetime white, Republican stronghold now has an ethnically mixed population and a slim majority of Democrats.

"It's full of very residential neighborhoods surrounded by city," said Tamara Trank, who lives in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood, in the house where her husband grew up.

Trank is one of nine 1st District candidates for the council that will be created if secession passes in the Nov. 5 election. A Valley city would have 14 such council districts of about 95,000 residents each. It would also have an elected mayor.

Trank opposes secession. She is running for office, she said, because she would like her views to be represented in a new city.

The proposed district would encompass Granada Hills and parts of Northridge and include the 32,500-student Cal State Northridge. It is an area with a tradition of conservative activism dating to the anti-busing movement and an earlier secession drive in the 1970s.

But it is also home to a new crop of liberal activists. Some are outraged at plans to reopen a massive city dump near a water treatment plant in Granada Hills. Others worry about conditions in low-income apartments along several blocks of Parthenia Street.

Dr. Sidney Gold, a psychiatrist who is running for a council seat, has lived in Granada Hills since 1976. Touring the proposed district recently, he pointed out a Northridge industrial park near Parthenia Street and Tampa Avenue, across from apartment buildings whose security fence is topped with razor wire to keep drug dealers out.

There is a proposal to place a recycling facility there but, though Gold supports recycling, he is concerned that the facility would further blight an already disadvantaged neighborhood.

Shaunn Cartwright, who like Gold and Trank considers herself liberal, lives near the university and sees the proposed construction of a new high school on the CSUN campus as a key issue in the neighborhood.

Cartwright opposes the construction of Academy High School, in part because she is concerned that there will not be enough parking.

One candidate who knows first-hand the changes that have affected Northridge is Susan Deas, 33, a management consultant who grew up in the north end of the district and still lives in the family home with her mother.

When the family moved in, cows grazed on nearby farms. Now her neighborhood, at Balboa Boulevard and Parthenia Street, is near some of the district's most urban corners.

She is committed to making the Valley a separate city and does not plan to run for office in Los Angeles if secession fails. Deas, who has a law degree and a master of business administration degree in finance and management, said she is particularly interested in making sure the new city gets off on the right foot, with council members who have the budgeting and management skills necessary to set up and run a new government.

Much of the political life in the district is consumed with the proposal to reopen a portion of Sunshine Canyon landfill, which straddles land in the city and the county of Los Angeles and has been closed for decades.

A plan by the owners, Browning-Ferris Industries, to expand it from unincorporated county land into Granada Hills has often been cited by secession backers as a reason the Valley should form its own city.

Other residents support secession because they resent having tons of trash trucked in from all over the city and dumped near their homes. In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council approved a project -- since delayed by homeowners' legal action -- to expand the landfill closer to residential neighborhoods. Mayor James K. Hahn has since said that he would try to find alternatives to the dump.

Most of the candidates have cited Sunshine Canyon as a top land-use concern, along with the proposed expansion of a local parochial school.

One who has been particularly active is Kim Thompson, a mother of two who has devoted herself to fighting any expansion of the dump and the reopening of the Los Angeles side. Despite having been appointed by Hahn to the Environmental Affairs Commission, Thompson favors secession. It's a point of view that solidified after she organized a community group to speak before the council about Sunshine Canyon.

"These people were truly thinking the council was going to listen to what they were saying," Thompson said of the 300 residents packed into council chambers. But council members "were eating and they were chatting and they were getting out of their seats. They were talking on the phone. It was horrible."

Candidate Ken Aslan is a father of three who lives in the Granada Hills home he bought from his parents and where he grew up. Aslan established and runs the Historic Core Business Improvement District and Property Owners Assn. in downtown Los Angeles.

In his role as executive director of the organization, he said, he is already serving like a councilman, coordinating competing needs of the improvement district, applying for grants and putting together the organization's budget.

Robert Nelson Norris, president of the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce, is an attorney running on a platform of fiscal responsibility for the new city.

"One of the important things to do with a new city is to try to avoid the mistakes of the current system, to try not to spend as much money as Los Angeles does," Norris said.

Two other candidates in the district, Andrew W. Anderson Jr. and Don L. Larson, could not be reached for comment.


Times staff writer Wendy Thermos contributed to this report.

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